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    Unheralded ligang labas fixtures proving they belong, in 3x3 this time

    Oct 26, 2020
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño

    PALAYAN City may be the unheralded sibling to its sister team Nueva Ecija, but it doesn't mean that it's a pushover.

    Not one bit.

    That's especially true with the Capitals parading a collection of hard-nosed players in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup presented by TM, all wanting to prove that they belong.

    And what better way to make that statement than eliminating the fancied Rice Vanguards in Leg 3 on Sunday.

    Palayan City earned its first semifinals berth after pulling off a 21-14 quarterfinal stunner over Nueva Ecija, much to the surprise of everyone inside Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba.

    "Nilaro lang namin yung advantage namin sa loob kaya siguro kami nanalo," said Bobby Balucanag.

    Tough as they come, that physical style has been the bread and butter of the Capitals since their arrival in the pioneering professional 3x3 league in the country.

    And they're thriving.

    That's what you get from Balucanag, alongside Renz Palma, Clark Derige, and JP Sarao — overlooked players who have turned out to be gems for Palayan City.

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    Despite being less popular than their Nueva Ecija counterparts who are led by Juan Gomez de Liaño, Gab Banal, and Jai Reyes, the Capitals admit that these challenges spur them to always bring their best on the court.

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    "Mas intense yung laban namin kasi sister teams kami eh," said Balucanag.

    Bobby Balucanag takes it strong to the hoop against Nueva Ecija.

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    And it perfectly typifies the character of this team, rooted from the individual players' desire to prove their worth.

    Most have been fixtures of ligang labas after their collegiate days, with Balucanag a product of San Sebastian, Derige from University of the East, and Sarao from St. Francis of Assisi.

    Thanks to the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), they got a new lease on their basketball careers.

    Only Palma made it to the PBA, but he only lasted two seasons with Blackwater and Alaska.

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    It's easy to look at the Palayan City squad as an island of misfit toys, but the players sure have solved each others' puzzles and have drawn strength from each other in this career reboot.

    "Sobrang blessed kami at thankful kay boss Bong Cuevas at (Palayan) mayor Rianne Cuevas dahil nandyan sila through the pandemic at di nila kami pinabayaan. Parang nakahanap kami ng second parents," said Sarao.
    ___

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    PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño
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